Entering the third period, the Leafs not only trailed 3-2 but their playoff hopes looked to be getting slimmer by the second. The Leafs had just three wins when trailing after two periods this season.
An early goal was much needed and Mikhail Grabovski finished off a great passing play just 4:03 in to the period to tie it at 3-3. Just 2:33 later, Phil Kessel came down the wing, changed pace and fooled Ryan Miller blocker side. It was Kessel's fifth game winner of the season.
Wins on the season for the Leafs tying last year's win total.
There weren't any passengers on the Leafs tonight. Every player knew the importance of the game and they all performed brilliantly. James Reimer needed a bounce back game and he delivered.
His best save came late in the third. With Thomas Vanek charging down the wing he robbed him with his right pad and then he stopped Brad Boyes on the rebound. Reimer finished with 39 saves and was the first star helping the Leafs move four points back of eighth.
Ron Wilson said Friday that if you want to be a big game player you have to step up in big moments and that is what Phil Kessel did on Saturday.
Kessel not only scored the winning goal, he made a great pass to Tyler Bozak for his goal. He finished the night with two points and a plus two. He did a great job back checking stopping several Sabres rushes. Kessel was one of the most effective Leafs playing 21:35.
Four years ago. That was the last time the Leafs won two straight games against the Sabres. The Leafs won 3-0 on November 9, 2007 and they won January 19, 2008, 4-2.
The win over Buffalo also ended Toronto's 0-4-3 streak on Saturday nights. Toronto last won a Saturday-night game at Ottawa on January 1 and last won a Saturday-night home game on December 11. The Leafs are 5-10-4 on Saturday nights with four more games to play that night.
"We've been through a lot all season and you have your ups and downs but you can't give up. It's hard in this league. If you look around, probably five per cent do you have a chance of coming back in the third period ... it doesn't happen very often. You have to get the first goal to tie it and Phil made a nice play on the winning goal ... the urgency showed up in the third period. I'm very proud of the team not to cave in."
Monday, March 14 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning 7 PM ET (Sportsnet, AM640)
Game Notes: The Maple Leafs close out their three-game homestand when they face the Lightning for the final time this season. The Leafs are 0-2-1 vs. the Bolts this season.
The Lightning will be playing their second game of a four game road trip. Saturday they were defeated 4-3 in overtime by the Panthers. Tampa has lost six of seven.